Aquinas and the Concept of Relations

When it comes to the concept of relation there is some clarification that must first take place.  To the everyday person, relation means someone to whom you are related.  At the base level this is correct, but philosophically it goes a little deeper.  This is especially true when discussing relations in connection with the Trinity.  St. Thomas Aquinas’s concept of relations included paternity and filiation (Garrigou-Lagrange Introduction).

Paternity and filiation, of course, ae completely different things.  A man can at the same time be a father and a son.  He is father to a child, and a child, or offspring to someone else.  He is not able to be both to the same person.  The idea here is that paternal relation delineates a distinction between persons.  In the Trinity the Son is not able to be the Father because the Father is paternal.  It shows a distinction between the two, and though they are of the same substance they are separate.  Regarding this concept Aquinas states, “Thus the Father has communicable being, but He is a distinct person by the paternity, which is opposed to filiation; similarly, active spiration is opposed to passive spiration” (Garrigou-Lagrange Introduction).

If paternity denotes the relationship of the Father and Son, then what is filiation?  Paternity is a term that applies to fatherhood and filiation is a term that implies sonship.  This was a key point in Aquinas’s opposition to the Scotists.  The Son is distinguished from the Father through filiation alone, but within God paternity and filiation are personal properties (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. XIV).  In filiation the Son has all the perfections from all eternity that the Father has.  This is done through generation and it is perfect based on relation.

One objection to the idea of filiation is the fact that Jesus said that the Father was greater than he (John 14:28).  Is not Jesus saying that he is somehow less than the Father?  That is what those wo object to the Trinity would have you believe?  Jesus says this because he lacks the relation of paternity.  This is something that is wholly unique to the Father.  They are the same essence and paternity in the Father in filiation in the Son (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. XIV).  Divine filiation is not less than, or somehow subordinate, to paternity.  If that were the case then the Son would lack perfection, and that would not make him divine.  To think that way would lead us into many of the Christological heresies that the Church had already dealt with.  Regarding this Aquinas writes, “Thus divine filiation is not less perfect than divine paternity, just as in the triangle either angle at the base is not less perfect than the angle at the apex” (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. XIV).

Regarding paternity, Aquinas answered an objection that stated that divine persons were brought about by active and passive origins (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. XIV).  Generation is active and active generation is something that comes from the Father.  This is a relation of Paternity and the very act refers to the Son.  This does not change the existence of the Son or modify it in some way.  They are still the same essence, but in relation to one another one is paternal.

In Conclusion, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote many things that advanced our understanding of the Trinity.  His explanation from scripture and philosophy helped elaborate on earlier work done on the Trinity by St, Augustine.  It is important to understand the distinctions between paternity and filiation, because to misunderstand can lead to error in discussing the Trinity.

 

Works Cited

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#05, accessed November 13, 2018

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The Three Theological Virtues

The three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity are given by God to those who are in a state of grace.  Regarding the theological virtues St. Thomas Aquinas states, “the theological virtues direct man to supernatural happiness in the same way as by the natural inclination man is directed to his connatural end”  (STII, Q62, A3).  The three virtues are different, but linked together in purpose, function, and motive.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews described faith as something hoped for.  We see this in Hebrews 11:1 where the author states, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NRSV).  Faith is the basis on which our hopes are founded and is the basis of merit (Hardon Ch. 10).  Through faith we do not believe in fanciful myths or new theologies because we know what has been revealed, and to whom it has been entrusted.

Hope is related to faith because faith spurs hope.  Furthermore, hope looks to the object of our faith.  The object of our faith is supernatural, and hope helps us to attain supernatural truth.  It shows us what to strive for and implies a modicum of pursuit.  Are we pursuing the truth of God, or are we pursuing temporal things?  If temporal, then we hope to attain them through our own efforts.  If supernatural, thee is no way possible to attain them on our own.  This is the error of Pelagianism that was condemned in the early days of the church.  It is only through the revelation and assistance of God that we may achieve this end.

Charity, as is hope, is something that is directed to and fulfilled by the Almighty (Hardon Ch. 10).  Hope is self-serving in a way because it is and end that we hope for ourselves, but charity is different.  Charity comes about when we love God for who he is instead of what we can attain through Him.  When we love God with everything we have we then seek to love him the way he wishes to be loved.

Faith, hope, and charity have their beginning and end in God.  Faith is the substance of things hope for.  Hope looks to God who is the object of our faith.  In Charity we seek to love God the way he wishes us to love, and that includes loving him above all things and loving our neighbor.  It is in this way that the three are distinct but intrinsically connected.

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981.  Accessed September 15, 2018.

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Rahner and the Supernatural Existential

Throughout history there are have been many ideas about grace that have been put forth.  From the early church writers, St. Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and in the modern era with Henri De Lubac and Karl Rahner offer various theories regarding grace and the nature of man have been put forth.  From a Neo-Thomist perspective, the one that is most problematic are the theories put forth by Fr. Karl Rahner.

Rahner was taking further a few steps put forth by Henri De Lubac and Cardinal Cajetan who himself was commenting on Aquinas’s work in the Summa.  For Rahner there is the nature of man, the supernatural existential, and grace (Lecture Notes).  These terms are a sharp divergence from the terms employed by St. Thomas Aquinas.  What exactly is the supernatural existential?  The term puts forth that the very nature of man is grace itself.  Truly we are made in the image of God, but we are in a fallen nature prior to grace, so surely that existence is not part of grace itself.    In Rahner’s view, especially with the supernatural existential mixed in, nature and grace are further separated.  Not only are they further separated, but at the same time they are mixed together in such a way to make the two almost indistinguishable.  This mixture of nature and grace which really cannot be distinguished, arguably, is the source of all the modern problems in theology.

This also leads to a type of moral Pelagianism that is not what Henri De Lubac nor St. Thomas Aquinas held to.  Lubac held that the end vocation of man was supernatural, but that it in no way result from pure human effort (Lubac 65).  For Aquinas man has two natures.  The first is nature before the fall in which he was created in a state of grace, and the other is after the fall in which nature was corrupt.  Aquinas is very clear when he states, “And hence it is that no created natureis a sufficient principle of an act meritorious of eternal life, unless there is added a supernatural gift, which we call grace” (STII, Q114, A2).

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981.  Accessed September 9, 2018.

Lubac, Henri De.  A Brief Catechesis on Nature & Grace.  San Francisco, CA:  Ignatius Press, 1984.

Grace and the Faculty of Mind

At the beginning of sacred scripture, we read how God created man.  Man was created in a state of grace, and through sin this grace was lost.  This led to mankind having the stain of original sin, and a desire to sin called concupiscence.  This nature requires grace to assist us in our post-lapsarian nature.  This is done because grace effects the faculty of our mind and the capacity of our will.

A result of sin is that we focus on carnal things.  No matter how hard we try to avoid sin we will fall back into it without the help of grace.  Our minds can be restored through grace, and through this grace we have a greater propensity to avoid mortal sin (ST II, Q 109, A 8).  According to Aquinas, grace transforms the mind and makes one alert to situations that will make us fall from grace.  It helps us know what is good, and what we should and should not do.  We know what we should do, are in a state of grace, and can ask God to assist us in doing the right thing.  Grace can effect the faculty of the mind by helping us avoid mortal sin, though we may still commit venial sin (ST II, Q 109, A 8).

Grace also has a strong effect on the capacity of our will.  Regarding the will in post-lapsarian man Fr. John Hardon writes, “because of the fall the moral will is a passive faculty which always leans on the side where the weight of attraction is stronger” (Hardon Ch. 3).  Our wills strive to make contact with things, and our sinful nature will always go toward the greatest attraction.  Grace comes in and alters what attracts us.  Through grace our will strives to love God and others.  The light of grace turns a selfish will towards hope and charity, and through hope and charity we can see the love of God (Journet 1.6).  We can love God and in turn reflect that love toward others.

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Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981.  Accessed August 10, 2018.

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

Grace and Merit in the Creation of Man

When we look to the world around us it is hard to believe that there once was a world without sin.  In Question 95 of Thomas Aquinas’s masterpiece, the Summa Theologica, he describes the relationship between grace and merit in pre-lapsarian man.  Was man initially created in a state of grace, and if so how does that relate to merit?  In answering this question Aquinas first looks to sacred scripture.  He quotes a section of Ecclesiastes 7:30 which states, “God made man right” (Douay-Rheims).

Aquinas concludes that man was created in a state of grace.  The reason of man was subject to God and the lower powers of man to reason, and the body to soul (ST1, Q95, A1).  After the fall the lower parts, of man that were once captive to reason, were not longer captive to reason.  If this were the case, then Adam and Eve would not have been ashamed when they noticed they were naked.  Their reason was subject to God and the loss of grace “dissolved the obedience of the flesh to the soul” (ST1, Q95, A1).

So, if in a pre-lapsarian state was created in a state of grace, then how does merit relate to grace?  Regarding merit Aquinas writes, “the degree of merit is measured by the degree of the action itself” (ST1, Q95, A4).  When one thinks of merit one thinks of a reward.  Man was made in a state of innocence and God said that man was good (GN 1:31).  For a period, man lived in a state of innocence.  During this period of innocence, the work of man is more meritorious than when man is in a sinful state (ST1, Q95, A4).  This brings us to the two kinds of merit:  absolute and proportional.  When in a state of innocence man, the absolute work done would made greater virtue in man because of the work.  In proportion a greater need for merit exists after sin, and this can only be done through grace.  Pre-lapsarian man, though created in grace, still used grace in an absolute manner to do meritorious works.

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981.  Accessed July 17, 2018.

Aquinas and the Principle of Double Effect

Over the course of our lives we will be faced with many difficult decisions.  These decisions may be life altering and may change us forever.  In the encyclical Veritatis Splendor, Saint Pope John Paul II writes, “Acting is morally good when the choices of freedom are in conformity with man’s true good and thus express the voluntary ordering of the person towards his ultimate end: God himself, the supreme good in whom man finds his full and perfect happiness” (Veritatis Splendor para 72).  In these circumstances there are right and wrong moral decisions, and the principles of double effect and material cooperation assist us in making the right decision.

The principle of double effect, or PDE, has its origins with St. Thomas Aquinas and is one of the best strategies in solving complex morality issues.  This principle states that it is possible to make a decision that has both good and bad effects.  Just because it has both effects does not mean that it is not morally permitted.  There are conditions that must be met for a decision to fall under this principle.  The act itself must be good or morally indifferent.  The good effect must not come from evil.  Evil is not the intended result.  If evil is the effect it should be a last resort and the good effect should be equal or greater.  This principle, along with material cooperation, help to make the best moral decision out of possibly the worst of circumstances.

Image result for priciple of double effect

            When an individual assists in some way in wrongdoing this is called material cooperation, and there are two categories.  The first is known as immediate material cooperation an individual, though they may disapproval, assists in the act.  They may tolerate it, but do not approve.  The second in Mediate material cooperation, and consists of proximate mediate and remote mediate material cooperation.  Proximate mediate is immoral in all cases, and may consists in the manufacturing of a device, such as Sarin gas, that is only meant for evil.  Remote mediate may be permitted based on the circumstance, such as not being able to find viable employment elsewhere and having to feed your children.  In this circumstance someone may be the janitor at the factory that produces Sarin gas because employment may not be had elsewhere.  This is why moral decisions should be looked at to get all the factors.  Regarding this Pope John Paul II writes, “In this view, deliberate consent to certain kinds of behaviour declared illicit by traditional moral theology would not imply an objective moral evil” (Veritatis Splendor para 75).

A hard case when it comes to PDE is the subject of abortion.  Abortion is the termination of a human life while it is still in the womb.  Abortion being wrong is not a matter of just the church saying so.  This can be deduced by the use of reason without the aid of faith (Smith & Kaczor 29).  Imagine if a couple had six kids at home, and while pregnant with the seventh the mother is diagnosed with uterine cancer.  Removing the cancer would end the pregnancy, but not removing it the mother will perish while the child lives.  After much prayer and anguish the parents opt to remove the cancer for the benefit of the six children they have to raise.  This is an effective use of PDE since the intent was not to terminate the pregnancy, but to remove the cancer.  Conversely a woman who chooses to terminate the pregnancy because she just does not want another child does not meet the conditions of PDE.

Proponents of proportionalism reject PDE because the moral actions of the individual should be judged by the consequences that ensue.  In short, the outcome that brings the greatest good or the least bit of evil is the appropriate action.  Proportionalism does not have a set definition of what is morally upright, and it can change based on the individual.  It is because of these reasons that proportionalism is condemned by Veritatis Splendor.

 

Works Cited

Pope John Paul II.  Veritatis Splendor.  http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html.  Accessed February 27, 2018.

Smith, Janet E and Kaczor, Christopher.  Life Issues, Medical Choices:  Questions and Answers For Catholics.  Servant.  Cincinatti, OH:  2016.  Print

St. Thomas Aquinas and Christology

Thomas Aquinas is known as one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the church.  He was a prolific writer, and writings are still widely read today.  When it comes to Christology Aquinas had a lot to say, and his writings on Christology can be read in the third part of his Summa Theologica and his Commentary on Matthew (Lecture Notes).

His view on the incarnation was different because he assumed its necessity was hypothetical.  This does not mean that it was a theory and that it did not happen, but it was only a necessity if it was something that God had planned from the beginning.  Like Anselm and many others before him, Aquinas believed that nothing can coerce God.  In simpler terms, did God only ordain the incarnation as a result of the fall?  Or was the incarnation already put in place because God knew the fall would take place?

Through the fall man became separated from God, but through the incarnation this was remedied.  It was remedied because God sought to unite humanity to himself.  Though dawning a human body was below God, he loved us so much that Christ did it so we may be united with him.  Aquinas delves into two kinds of necessity.  The first necessity in one in which there is no way we can achieve the end.  There is nothing, as humans, that we can do to satisfy the due penalty for sin.  This is not possible because original sin has corrupted our very nature.  The second necessity spoken of is that of man being sufficient because of the actions of another.  In this case it is Christ who sustains us.

Aquinas goes on to say much more about the incarnation is section three of the Summa.  He answers the question of whether the incarnation should have happened at the beginning of time, or at the end.  His answer is masterful, but simple at the same time.  He quotes scripture to say that in the fullness of time Christ came to save sinners.  If this happened at the beginning of the world there would have been no sinners as the fall had not taken place.  If it happened at the end of the world then it would have been too late for those sinners scripture says he came to save.

Image result for thomas aquinas

            In conclusion Aquinas takes the best of those before him to assist in his Christology.  He is very proud to quote from Augustine, Anselm, John Chrysostom, and many others in support of his position.  His affirmed the necessity of the Hypostatic union and thinks that it is necessary for one to believe.  The unity of man and God was the work of the incarnation.  In the incarnation we find the love and forgiveness of God.  It was the decision of God, long before time began, that the suffering of Christ would be the material element of his love for humanity.

Aquinas and Christology

Thomas Aquinas is known as one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the church.  He was a prolific writer, and writings are still widely read today.  When it comes to Christology Aquinas had a lot to say, and his writings on Christology can be read in the third part of his Summa Theologica and his Commentary on Matthew (Lecture Notes).

His view on the incarnation was different because he assumed its necessity was hypothetical.  This does not mean that it was a theory and that it did not happen, but it was only a necessity if it was something that God had planned from the beginning.  Like Anselm and many others before him, Aquinas believed that nothing can coerce God.  In simpler terms, did God only ordain the incarnation as a result of the fall?  Or was the incarnation already put in place because God knew the fall would take place?

Through the fall man became separated from God, but through the incarnation this was remedied.  It was remedied because God sought to unite humanity to himself.  Though dawning a human body was below God, he loved us so much that Christ did it so we may be united with him.  Aquinas delves into two kinds of necessity.  The first necessity in one in which there is no way we can achieve the end.  Thee is nothing, as humans, that we can do to satisfy the due penalty for sin.  This is not possible because original sin has corrupted our very nature.  The second necessity spoken of is that of man being sufficient because of the actions of another.  In this case it is Christ who sustains us.

Aquinas goes on to say much more about the incarnation is section three of the Summa.  He answers the question of whether the incarnation should have happened at the beginning of time, or at the end.  His answer is masterful, but simple at the same time.  He quotes scripture to say that in the fullness of time Christ came to save sinners.  If this happened at the beginning of the world there would have been no sinners as the fall had not taken place.  If it happened at the end of the world then it would have been to late for those sinners scripture says he came to save.

In conclusion Aquinas takes the best of those before him to assist in his Christology.  He is very proud to quote from Augustine, Anselm, John Chrysostom, and many others in support of his position.  His affirmed the necessity of the Hypostatic union and thinks that it is necessary for one to believe.  The unity of man and God was the work of the incarnation.  In the incarnation we find the love and forgiveness of God.  It was the decision of God, long before time began, that the suffering of Christ would be the material element of his love for humanity.

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